My friend John once had to memorize this poem for a class, and he recited it to me in preparation. I fell in love with it instantly. The sentiment is perfect; the timing is impeccable; the words, true to Stafford’s style, are spare. It’s a quiet, somber, thoughtful poem. The kind of poem I like to refer to as “middle-age” because it’s capable of great introspection.
Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.
I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hole the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.